How to Rescue a Butterfly





butterflies[This post was inspired by a recent dream.]

In my dream, I was traveling with two women somewhere out in nature, we could have been in Yellowstone National Park. We paused at one of the turn-outs to take in the beauty and get some fresh air. I looked over the concrete barrier down towards a tranquil stream. I noticed a gigantic (I don’t just mean huge, I mean, larger than your face) butterfly beating its wings frantically, but going nowhere.

I mentioned this to my two friends – “Look, there’s a butterfly trapped down there! Somehow the tip of its wing is stuck under one of the rocks. We need to save it!” I briefly discussed with the friend to my right how it’s even possible for a butterfly to get a rock stuck on its wing. We came to the conclusion that the swift moving water, and the series of rapids was probably enough momentum to dislodge a rock, and the butterfly just happened to be flying low enough in the exact moment the rock stopped moving to get trapped.

I turned to ask the friend on my left what she thought, and saw that she had climbed over the concrete barrier, and was bouncing down the embankment to the stream. I watched her jump across boulders to rescue this large and precious butterfly. She carefully picked up the rock and the butterfly graciously and gratefully flew away.

But what does it mean?
When I woke up after this dream, I was overcome with emotion. Oftentimes I associate myself with the symbolism of a butterfly, and I felt grateful that at times when I feel low, I have friends who are willing to rescue me. Sometimes removing a rock or a burden can happen in an instant – a positive conversation or a heartfelt hug. For me, personally, lately the ‘rescuing of the butterfly’ has come in the form of validation, acceptance, support, and encouragement from those who have often seen more in me than I was currently seeing in myself.

The symbolism of the dream seemed pretty obvious – hey, we should be grateful to our friends who are willing to help ease our burdens, who remind us that we ought to be free to fly… who can see us in our time of need, and rescue us – even if it’s just reminding us that if we keep beating our wings against the rock, we could cause serious injury. (Believe me, I could go on and on with different interpretations of the meaning behind this dream… but I won’t because if you are reading this, you are capable of doing that yourself.)

But what does it REALLY mean?
Now, you might think that’s a sweet little story, kinda cute, and maybe even a little bit cliche – but it doesn’t end there. A few days later, I was thinking about this dream, and I wondered why I didn’t go rescue the butterfly. In the dream, I was always sitting… sitting in between these two friends. And guess what – I was paralyzed from the waist down. I couldn’t move. I could not have gotten up, crawled over the barrier, down the embankment, etc. because I WAS THE TRAPPED BUTTERFLY.

The dream took on a new level of meaning for me. I couldn’t have saved that butterfly! In fact, the true significance of the message was to recognize that the butterfly (me) needed saving! But, from what? I stopped to ponder why I felt trapped, what was weighing so heavy on me?

And this is where things got really interesting for me.

I was feeling weighed down by my attachment to the outcome of certain situations. I felt heavy and burdened because I was buying into the idea that I needed to do it all, be everything to everyone, be the leader, and the drill sergeant, and the hall monitor. I was willingly dragging other people’s burdens behind me like a bag of rocks and I hadn’t been able to see what it was doing to my Spirit.

Was I really trapped? Did I really need anyone else to SAVE me? Nope. Not at all. Through my dream I was revealing a truth to myself – that I needed to release myself from my own attachments to just about everything… everything that is not in my control to influence, persuade, convince, affect, change… And as I applied this new insight to my life, I instantly felt lighter – free to fly.

What weighs YOU down?
And now I ask you – what weighs you down? What keeps you feeling trapped, stuck, heavy? In what ways do you perceive you need to be rescued, when what you might need is simply a paradigm shift?

by Janet Louise Stephenson

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Lack of Transparency





transparency1Transparency = The condition of being transparent (easy to see through, understand, or recognize; obvious, candid, open, or frank)

Interestingly enough, this word has come up for me several times recently. It’s not normally a word or a concept that I spend much time pondering… and yet, the idea of transparency as a personal trait/characteristic has been on my mind quite a bit lately.

Why am I pondering Transparency?
Last night, a dear friend asked me to share my opinion regarding a personal matter, and when I tapped in to the energy of her situation, I literally kept seeing the phrase ‘lack of transparency’ scrolling across the marquee screen of my third eye. (I wish ALL my intuitive messages were so clearly delivered!)

I have to be honest, some of this recognition and comprehension is new for me – I have no prior fixation on the concept of transparency. I can only admit that in the past few weeks, I’ve been challenging myself to embrace being in the ‘flow’, allowing information to come to me and through me without being attached to where it comes from, or who is giving it to me, or even what I’m supposed to be doing with it.

Just today, I had multiple opportunities to ‘tap in’ to a higher knowing, and just let the response flow out of me without an attachment to the composition, or to the information, or to the outcome. I simply (I describe it simply because it’s really about my intention to just merge and feel than it is about any specific technique) check in to the energy of it, and then calm my mind to articulate what I feel/see/experience.

So, when I tapped into my friend’s situation, I received information via a scrolling marquee with words, a physical response that felt like my heart chakra would beat right out of my chest in the midst of a flurry of scattered emotions, and a surging of emotion that brought me to tears.

This really only makes sense to me in two scenarios: 1) I’m empathically feeling the emotion involved in the situation and/or 2) It’s a trigger for me. Oh, and perhaps 3) A combination of the two.

Let’s discuss these scenarios. First off, yes, it’s true, I’m an Empath… which hasn’t historically been very easy for me. I was either super antsy all the time because I could feel everything, or I was numb so I wasn’t feeling anything. Finding a balance in the middle, where I am more sure of what emotions actually belong to me, has been quite a journey. I’m doing much better now than I ever have, and am learning to interpret the information that is inherent when I feel what others feel.

Because I could feel the emotion encompassing this particular situation, I recognized a lack of transparency from both parties involved. I also picked up on the associated drama due to everything that still remains hidden and unknown. And I will admit, it actually hurt my feelings for a few moments. That is, until I realized that this wasn’t actually MY deal, not my situation, not my emotion.

In an attempt to ‘let go’ of the intense activity rolling around in my heart chakra, I paused to get grounded and centered. I also came to understand that my own crap was triggered when I tapped into this situation. And what do you do when issues that you thought you had cleared come bubbling up again, this time from a deeper place? Well, I’ll tell you what I do. I hop in the shower and bawl my eyes out as a method of releasing the emotion. It doesn’t have to make sense, it just feels like the right thing for me to do. I envision the emotion being washed out of my body and right down the drain.

I also did some Ho’oponopono work, as forgiveness is such a key step in ‘letting go’.

Once I had released this emotion, I was able to think more clearly about why I was having such a strong reaction. Logically, it makes no sense for me to feel so intensely about a situation in which I have no attachment to the outcome. Yet, there I sat, triggered to the point of bawling in the shower.

I realized that my personal upset with the situation was coincidentally the ‘lack of transparency’ and I began to contemplate how often, we, as humans, prefer to hide, rather than reveal the true nature of our selves.

Why do we Hide?
We rarely reveal the intimate parts of ourselves to another soul, and why not? Are we afraid of their judgment? Doesn’t this really indicate we are judging our selves before anyone else even has the chance? It is easy to hide, to preserve our vulnerability, to avoid perceived judgment and criticism. Why do we hide the curiosities that wander through our brains? Why should anyone else be sitting in a position to judge us for the questions we have about life? Why don’t we feel free and brave enough to express our innermost feelings, fears, and desires?

Too often we are caught up in self-doubt, loathing, insecurity, and worried about ‘what the others will think’. We fear that if we share too much, and it’s too far out of the mainstream normal, then we’ll be labeled as ‘crazy’, ‘mad’, ‘psychotic’, ‘mental’, ‘depressed’, etc. We are taught from childhood that if we have any struggles, we ought to take them to a higher power who can convene on our behalf, or maybe we’ll just get diagnosed with some condition so we can be medicated. This isn’t transparency – this is masking who we really are…

When we start hiding the truth of what we think, how we feel, what we struggle with, our weaknesses, insecurities, shortcomings, imperfections, and put on a facade, what we are really doing is creating more hiding places. When we hide, we must create a shield, or a wall to hide behind, and with every wall, essentially, another hiding place is created. Once you start hiding, it gets easier and easier to hide from others, and what is even more damaging – it gets easier to hide from yourself!

I’m done hiding!
I acknowledged how I really felt by crawling in the shower to cry it out. It no longer makes sense to me to pretend that something doesn’t bother me, to swallow it or stuff it back down. Experience has proven that when we do this, whatever the original issue was will come back with a vengeance, and possibly reveal itself as a health issue to draw our attention to the fact that we never released that emotion. When we stuff our emotions, they have to go somewhere to hide – and then we can blissfully pretend like we aren’t aware they are hiding in there. Again, we are really hiding from our Selves.

Being transparent means that we don’t hide these traumas anymore. We boldly face them, acknowledge them, process, and then let it all go.

Transparency is a component of authenticity – where a commitment to integrity compels you to reveal your most protected aspects of your Self because you choose to be seen for exactly who you are. This takes courage!

I’m recognizing how the ‘lack of transparency’ in my own life has caused me some unnecessary hiccups along the way. Sigh. At least I’m learning now, so that I can make mid-game adjustments. Fortunately, my greatest treasure in life has been the discovery that I can be seen and unconditionally loved for who I really am.

All of this pondering has got me thinking about how to apply these new insights (and slight variations on an old theme) to my own circumstances. I am committing to making Transparency a priority in my own life – to be as crystal clear as I dare to be on a daily basis. I can’t promise I will be 100% capable of putting it all out there, and I don’t actually expect perfection from myself. . . just the awareness and a concerted effort is enough for me, as I’m building up my courage.

What about You?
Imagine how your life would transform if you began to value Transparency on a daily basis. Every relationship would shift, as would the persona you reveal to the public. And most importantly, I’m guessing, your own relationship with your Self would change. I’ll be observing the shifts that occur in my life, and I’ll come back and report.

by Janet Louise Stephenson

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Neighbor from Hell





neighbor from hellFrom all appearances, this woman seems to have psychological issues. But could there be something else going on here? See Video.

Courtesy MSNBC.com

Many times when I see a piece of human drama, I wonder what the bigger picture looks like.

For instance, with regard to this video, it would be simple to say that one lady seems to have lost her mind and the other side in this drama is doing what they need to do, protect themselves and their property. Beyond that however, doesn’t it seem odd that a woman with a nice home and a good job who is seemingly normal in other ways, would act this way at all, much less for such an extended time?

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How Bias Affects Our Choices





Gershwin-quoteWe may think that our beliefs are based on solid facts and reason, but, in the words of George Gershwin’s old song, “It ain’t necessarily so.” The way our minds work actually limits our ability to discern the truth or make rational decisions. Psychologists have been studying the way we think for many years, and have identified several biases that cause this.

Prejudices and preconceptions
We all tend to pick and choose information that supports our prejudices and preconceptions while ignoring a heap of evidence to the contrary. Right or wrong, climate change deniers provide the most obvious example today, focusing on a tiny minority of expert opinion and brushing aside the overwhelming consensus of climate scientists. Similarly, most of us don’t listen carefully to politicians’ speeches or analyze their policies in detail. Instead we pick up the fragments of information that reinforce our party preference.

This “confirmation bias” even penetrates scientific thinking. For instance, the evidence for the reality of paranormal phenomena is far stronger than the evidence for the effectiveness of many pharmaceutical drugs. And yet most scientists reject out of hand any suggestion that psychic abilities are real because they don’t believe they’re possible. In less-dramatic ways, confirmation bias distorts our thinking and decisions about many aspects of life. Despite my high level of education and career as an academic, I frequently catch myself doing this.

The attraction effect
Another source of bias in our thinking is the “attraction effect.” Imagine you’re comparing smart phone options, and are drawn to the cheaper Basic contract rather than the more expensive Advanced one because it meets your needs adequately. Now suppose that you’ve been offered a third Luxury alternative that costs more but provides no more benefits than the Advanced contract. Research shows that the presence of this third option increases the probability that you’ll choose the Advanced contract. One possible explanation is that the Luxury option makes it easier to justify your choice by claiming you’ve got a bargain — perhaps our decisions are normally biased towards ones we can easily justify rather than what is best for us?

The framing effect
Three decades ago, a third type of bias was identified. The “framing effect” leads us to make choices depending on how the information is presented. In one classic experiment, people were asked to imagine an outbreak of disease threatening a village of 600 people. Plan A would definitely save 200 lives, whereas Plan B would have a 1 in 3 chance of saving An example of how bias affects rational thinking everyone, and a 2 in 3 chance of saving no one.

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Suicide Questions





live-and-let-liveTragedy struck close to home this week with the painful announcement that a family member of a close friend had committed suicide. At times like these, being empathic feels more like a curse than a blessing. I feel acutely the agony of those he left behind — his wife, his daughters, his parents, and all those who loved him. In their struggle to understand the journey that led him to make this fateful choice, they lean on their faith, which is now amplified by the hope of forgiveness, redemption, and a merciful God.

I want so badly to tap them on the shoulder and politely interrupt their mourning to ask them if they would like some insight into this man.
I wonder if it would provide relief or more turmoil for them to know that their beloved did not share the family’s religious views; that he only pretended to because it was easier for him than facing their condemnation. I wonder if the slightest bit of Unconditional Love — the kind that is not predicated on the fulfillment of a pre-defined role or maintaining a certain set of religious standards — might have given him hope to continue living.

Though his family ponders why he would choose to take his own life, I do not. I understand very clearly the depths of his despair. The fear of his family’s alienation kept him trapped.  He spent his whole life struggling to reconcile the glimpses of his inner knowing with the doctrine that was shoved down his throat. He was expected to swallow every bit of the dogma whether he enjoyed it or not, with no consideration for his own personal preferences.
Yes, I understand the torment of a deeply spiritual man who never felt free enough to explore outside of ‘the box’. I do, however, have an entirely different set of questions:

·    How often within the family unit, does one member suffer silently, fearing the judgment and persecution of those  who claim to love her/him the most?
·    When did our culture start withdrawing love and acceptance as a means of punishing the dissenters?
·    Why is the fear of disapproval so much stronger than the courage it takes to trust our own feelings?
·    Why should anyone feel the need to hide their true self? Especially from their loved ones?
·    Do parents and family members understand how damning their condescension and criticism feels? Do they care?
·    Why does it take something as drastic as a suicide for others to consider an alternate, compassionate approach?
·    Is it possible to prevent others from making a similar choice?
·    What would it take?

When I look at this situation, my heart aches for every person who is affected by his death. The loss of a father, son, brother, and friend is tremendous — and when you add the weight of confusion and guilt, the burden may be quite difficult to bear. We can all stand to learn from their experience.

If you recognize yourself as one who is trapped, I am grateful you are reading this. You need to know that you are not alone. Your thoughts and ideas have a basis outside of the limited trappings of religion and you are valued for your uniqueness. There are others who deeply empathize with you and are willing to offer you encouragement and support as you build up courage to acknowledge your truth.

And for the rest of us — we can do more to reach out to those who feel isolated within their own circle of family and friends. Let us extend unconditional love and acceptance to everyone. I invite you to co-create an environment of safety and trust, so that our friends and family members have full confidence they can explore their own questions without fear of condemnation or any kind of repercussion.

by Janet Louise Stephenson

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Looking Within To Find Your Spiritual Direction





inspirational quotes clipart 5Growing up, most of us were told to pay attention, some of us (ahem) probably more than others. What our parents, teachers, relatives or others meant was to pay attention to what we were being told. But no one ever told me to pay attention to myself by listening to the voice inside of me. Don’t get me wrong, listening to others can be fine, because we can learn a lot from their experiences, however nothing beats the little voice when we want information unique to us.

I never knew the voice inside of me even mattered. For a long time I just thought it was my imagination working overtime. I began to realize however, that the messages I was receiving were almost always right. That’s when I started to understand there might be more to it than just imagination and there were more ways to get information than just externally.

To quote a line from one of my favorite movies, Peaceful Warrior, “ I want you to stop gathering information from outside yourself and start gathering it from the inside. It’s the only way people can find the real answers they are looking for.”

I believe the real answers in our lives are found by looking inside of ourselves. The mind is great for the everyday, mundane things. Does the yard need mowing? Do I need to go to the grocery store? But if you want to know why you’re here on earth, or why you’re stopped in some area of your life, the mind can’t help you. Because what’s in your mind has been put there by you or others, (parents, teachers, relatives, television, etc.) and that never seems to include deeper spiritual meaning that is unique to you. To find answers that no one else has for you, you have to look to your heart, the inner voice.

What is the inner voice? Have you ever had a strong feeling about something? A premonition? A little voice, if you will, telling you to do or not to do something. How often has it turned out to be right? Following that voice is following your heart and sometimes it’s in opposition to what your mind is telling you to do.

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